Friday, August 22, 2014

Highlights from C-Ville in Photos

Tops at the Michie Tavern toy store

Yousef's first fried chicken lunch

Playing with snow on a hot summer day

Climbing the rails in the restaurant

backpack gift bags

riding the elevator


Thursday, August 21, 2014

18 months

 18 months ago we were waiting for Josephine to make her way into the world. While Jeff and I anxiously looked at the clock, counting the minutes to C-time, Jannah-Rae was with my mom getting ready to meet Josie.

I remember the first "Just Josie" book JR and I had purchased. It was at the local Barnes and Noble one winter morning. When JR was little we spent many a mornings walking the streets of the Courthouse-Clarendon corridor up to B&N to meet friends, read and play. The book on the clearance table. It had a red dot and much potential. There were a few copies for grabs, and one was ours. Having loved the book as much as we did, and learning that there was another in the "series" I went hunting for the second one. For a reason I cannot remember I had a personal and intent interest in acquiring both books. I scouted near and far, online and in stores. I made calls, reached out to friends, asked for favors. I finally found a copy in Portland, OR, at "the largest independent used and new bookstore in the world." I ordered it and completed the collection.

Over the years we read both books multiple times. When I got pregnant we decided that whether girl or boy the baby was going to be Grandpa Joe's namesake. And thus Josie became part of the family. For months it was "Josie this and Josie that," until it was actually time for Josie, and then we had a miracle. Josephine quickly became Joseph and Josie retreated into the storybooks.

Eighteen months later JR still tells the tale of how Yousef was supposed to be a girl, how we were going to name her Josie and how she misses Josie. She opens the story by asking mothers with babies if their baby boy was supposed to be a girl or if their baby girl was supposed to be a boy. She then proceeds with her narrative. The mothers then look at me with astonishment and disbelief and ask me to confirm the story. We get the same reaction every time.

It's been eighteen months since JR started telling the story and yet it has not lost one bit of its luster. It's still as fresh and as exhilarating since day 1. Happy 18 months Yousef; we all love you.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

In Charlottesville ~ again

It was almost a year to date, August 13, 2013, that I had had one last taste of fried chicken and twenty months to date, December 22, 2012, that our family had had a vacation in Charlottesville. Our last two visits to this quiet town were bittersweet: one heralded a last of many things before departure and the other an attempt to find rest and relaxation amidst a stressful and painful time.

This visit was all about fun, family and reunification with favorite finds and foods. We ate at the same spots, slept in the same rooms, shopped at the same stores and relaxed in the same environment. We swam, walked, napped and talked. I wrote, Jeff worked, JR read and Yousef explored. We all relaxed.

Except for some closures, little had changed in the pedestrian downtown over the years, but much has changed in our life. Jeff and I first discovered the area as a twosome. It was one summer day, when the in-laws asked to visit Monticello that the treasure of the fried chicken was found. After that, Jeff and I would pass the summers taking day trips for lunch, coffee and gelato. Then, we expanded our adventure and started staying overnights first at a local bed and breakfast, then at a Marriott to finally be in the know for unbeatable rates at the Omni.

Then, Jannah-Rae was born but the tradition lived on. While the trips became less frequent, they continued well into her life. We came as a family of three, with grandparents, with out-of-town visitors, for a day, or a couple. Our last visit here as a family of three celebrated Jeff's birthday as an impromptu trip. That was a long time ago, well before we had Yousef in the making.

Now there is Yousef, and his first family vacation in Charlottesville. While at his age Jannah-Rae had logged countless trips to C-Ville, there's something to bringing him here at this age that casts a special spell and makes me stop and reflect.

Where once Jeff and I could enjoy a quiet meal, this time our attention was equally divided between putting food in our mouths and putting it in the kids'. Where once JR napped cocooned in the Moby wrap, this time she sped through on her bike. Where once I was wheelchair bound, this time I ran after Yousef. Where once JR silently tagged along, this time she voiced her opinions, desires, and needs. Where once we had one kid running into mischievousness, this time we had a team. And what a team they are! Together or apart, they make people stop, stare and comment, and conclude with a free cookie or a sticker book. There are more "where onces" to list so I decided to keep the list short and spend the time enjoying the "this times."

Monday, August 18, 2014

Canned Spinach

My first, and last, meal cooked with spinach from a can happened one beautiful winter morning. It was Ifrane; quiet, secluded, removed from the plenitude of choices and crammed aisles. I was struggling over what to feed two kids who were used to variety, to availability, to certain meals cooked in certain ways. I was losing sleep over how malnourished they will be, how they are going to lack in vitamins, how their iron levels are going to drop, how little calcium they were getting, how stunted their growth was going to get. As any mom I was anxious to make sure they were well provided for, nourished, satiated. Little did I know then that the brisk, clean air, the hours spent outdoors, the ample locally sourced, seasonal produce, the slow pace and quiet, mixed with home-cooked meals served with love, was worth more than anything I could find on shelves and in freezers. But I learned.  

I had known about canned spinach from watching Popeye the Sailor Man as a child but I had never actually come into personal proximity with it. I had always had either fresh or frozen spinach. Always that is until we moved to Morocco. Then, anxious to provide the kids with iron rich vegetables and having few options to chose from I resorted to the imported canned greens. They were not inexpensive, as after all they were imported and I had my reservations about the product. I was not entirely disappointed, however, and managed to make a couple of meals out of one can. The taboo over using canned spinach was hence forever removed from my mind. Given a choice, of course, I would have opted for something different but under the circumstances it was the best I could offer my family. And if I had to do it all over again, I would; this time without losing any sleep. 

That meal was cooked on a gas stove, in aluminum pots, using plastic spoons. Rice with ground beef, onions and spinach. Flavored with allspice and lemon juice. Cooked in olive oil with a tad of salt. Simmered in chicken broth made from organic chicken carcass bought from the chicken monger at the marché. The kids not only gobbled down the meal, JR even asked for more. It was not a royal meal of any sort but it was splendid enough for my family and me.